Non-invasive brain stimulation can improve swallowing ability in ischaemic stroke patients, according to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The results showed that brain stimulation improved the patients’ ability to swallow by more than 2.5 points on a seven-point scale, compared to slightly more than one point among those who received a sham treatment.
Overall, swallowing ability improved by at least two points in 86% of the patients receiving stimulation, compared to 43% who received sham treatment.
The study used transcranial direct current stimulation, which transmits a weak electric current via electrodes placed on the scalp, to increase activity in targeted areas of the brain.
The programme involved 14 patients who had suffered an ischaemic stroke within the previous one to seven days, who were randomised to receive either transcranial direct current stimulation or sham treatment.
Difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, is a common and serious stroke complication, which can lead to aspiration, when food or foreign matter accidentally enters the lungs.